Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that he would be resigning in a webcast on Tuesday morning amid a months-long sexual harassment scandal in which multiple women have accused him of exhibiting inappropriate and alarming behavior spanning years of his time in power.
“This is one of the most challenging times for government in a generation. Government really needs to function today,” said Cuomo. “Wasting energy on distractions is the last thing that state government should be doing. And I cannot be the cause of that.”
“I think that, given the circumstances, the best way I can help now is if I step aside and let government get back to governing. And, therefore, that’s what I’ll do,” Cuomo continued. His resignation will take effect in 14 days, he said.
The governor’s resignation follows an explosive report from Attorney General Letitia James detailing harassment allegations against the governor. The report contains accounts from 11 women who have accused Cuomo of sexual harassment and assault, in some cases groping and kissing women without their consent.
Despite the growing pile of accusations, however, Cuomo resisted calls to resign for months and denied the women’s accounts of his behavior. The calls to resign reached a fever pitch recently as President Joe Biden joined New York lawmakers last week in calling for him to step down.
Cuomo’s alleged victims include former aides and an executive assistant, several of whom are at least half his age, who say that Cuomo would often abuse his power by touching them and making inappropriate comments while he held the highest office of one of the most populous states in the country.
“I felt that he was definitely taking advantage of me. He was taking advantage. The fact that he could tell that I was nervous. He could tell that I wasn’t saying anything because he had gotten away with it before,” one executive assistant, Brittany Commisso, told state investigators. “Any time he touched me I felt like it was inappropriate. He was my boss, let alone the Governor of the State of New York, so I definitely felt he abused his power and definitely knew that he had this presence about him, very intimidating.”
Commisso, 33, said that the governor would often hug her and grab her backside during hugs and kiss her. On one occasion in November, she said, he reached under her blouse and touched her breast.
Commisso is the latest alleged victim to go public with stories of sexual harassment and assault from Cuomo. Her story is similar to that of other accusers, some of whom also say that the governor harassed them for years.
Lindsey Boylan, a former member of Cuomo’s administration, in February accused Cuomo of harassing her throughout her three years working for the governor. The governor would “go out of his way” to touch her, she said, and once kissed her on the lips after a meeting. He compared her to an ex-girlfriend and once suggested they play strip poker.
Other women describe brief interactions with the governor in which he sexually assaulted or harassed them. “You make that gown look good,” one state employee said that Cuomo told her while she was testing him for COVID-19. Another state employee said that he touched her butt while taking a photo with Cuomo and her boss, and a state trooper assigned to the governor’s protection said that he would make flirtatious comments to her and touched her inappropriately several times.
A week ago, the governor was still denying the sexual misconduct accusations. “I never touched anyone inappropriately or made inappropriate sexual advances,” he said last Tuesday. “I am 63 years old. I’ve lived my entire adult life in public view. That is just not who I am.”
But this week, the governor slightly walked back some of his previous denials, appearing to admit fault while still making excuses for his behavior. “I just wasn’t thinking,” he said when addressing the state trooper’s allegations. He said that touching the trooper was his way of thanking her for her service. “It was a mistake, plain and simple,” he concluded.
He went on, bizarrely, to thank the women for coming forward while implying that there may be a political agenda to their accusations. The governor then concluded his announcement by touting his accomplishments with COVID-19 during his time in office.
His time overseeing the state during the pandemic, however, was also troubled. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is investigating claims that Cuomo’s administration had covered up nursing home death counts as the governor battled criticism of his handling of nursing homes during the pandemic.
Early this year, the state attorney general’s office found that the state may have underreported nursing home COVID deaths by 50 percent. Later, reports came out that Cuomo aides had deliberately altered death counts to paint a rosier picture as the governor went on a victory lap promoting his book about how he led the state through the pandemic — a book for which he is set to make $5 million.
New York Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul is set to take Cuomo’s place while the state chooses a new governor. Hochul, a Democrat, will be the state’s first female governor if she takes office as she has announced she will do.